tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC December 18, 2012 11:00pm-12:00am PST
let me start tonight by talking about america. the preamble of our constitution addresses two areas of security. one is to provide for the common defense against foreign enemies. the second is to ensure domestic tranquility from violence from within. it is impossible to imagine the congress of the united states ignoring the first of these imperatives. an act of omission that would leave us open to foreign attack and invasion. tragically, we can't say the same about attacks on the country's domestic tranquility. what has the congress done to protect the country? nothing. and here's the question. when will we refuse as citizens to settle for, accept, live with a congress that fails to act in the face of such a demonstrated vulnerability? if not now, after this, when? next week? next month? next year? next what? and if not us, who in this world is going to demand action to protect americans? joining me now is u.s. senator dick durbin of illinois. i want to read something from
you which is very impressive, and it's in the op-ed pages of "the chicago tribune." quote, what holds us back are political organizations that are well-funded, well-organized, and determined to resist even reasonable limitations. there's a close political parallel between the gridlock in washington on dealing with our economy and national debt and the eerie silence in congress as the list of horrific gun crimes grows by the day. senator durbin, thank you. i know you have got a good heart on this as well as a good head about fiscal matters. what's wrong with the congress when it comes to protecting, ensuring the domestic tranquility? >> well, there's a legitimate concern about our second amendment, chris. you understand that part. but there's also a very strong political force that is trying to push forward, primarily for the dealers and manufacturers, an agenda that will sell more firearms and more sophisticated firearms, more expensive firearms, and that has really dominated the scene.
if you asked who is the head of the alcohol, tobacco, and firearms division of the department of defense, you would have to learn, unfortunately, that for literally years there's not been a head. the nra and gun lobbyists successfully even stopped the basic organization in charge of enforcement of our gun laws in america. >> when the late charlton heston would run that ad for the nra, he would wave some old musket near and say, from my cold dead hands, which i thought was awful to begin with, the absolute nature of that demand that they hold onto the gun, but he never waved an ak-47, never showed a 30-round clip in the air with a big banana. he never did that because people don't think of that as american revolution era. they think of that as state of the art mass killing. >> of course it is. and those are military weapons, military assault weapons. and, you know, thank goodness law enforcement turned up in newtown when it did or the list of children who had been killed and teachers would have been much, much longer. think about what happened in aurora, colorado.
that man stood in front of a crowded theater spraying that audience with one of these assault weapons, and the only thing that stopped him emptying the 100 cartridges that he had to shoot was it jammed. if it hadn't jammed, the death toll would have been even higher. >> you know, it's not hopeless though. you talked about the second amendment, but, look, back in 1934 when we had machine gun kelly and all the guys in shoegs chicago. we had the whole prohibition era encouraging a certain kind of crime, rum running, et cetera. here is the question. back then the congress had the guts to outlaw automatic weapons, machine guns. basically they did. they were heavily regulated. almost to the point of you don't find them around. here is the question, why can't congress do the same thing with semiautomatics? i know we have got millions of them and can't we start to regulate? we don't have to regulate a shotgun or a regular pistol, a revolver or anything, but if you go into the semiautomatic level, why don't we say that's like the automatic level? just go with that? >> i can tell you this, chris -- >> the courts would have to approve it because they approved the earlier one, didn't they? isn't there a precedent?
>> even after the heller decision, the supreme court told us there were reasonable limits that congress could impose when it came to firearms. there are two groups that i think are essential to the success of this effort. first, sportsmen and hunters. let me tell you, chris, i know plenty of them in my family and all around downstate illinois. they're good people. they're good citizens. they hate what happened in newtown, connecticut, as much as we do. we need them as part of this conversation. and the second group that has to step up is law enforcement. there was a time when they spoke out against these terrible weapons of death. we need them again to be part of this conversation. >> well, i would ask why would anybody out there want the criminal to be heavier armed than the policeman? he's got a little 9 millimeter or .38 police special, and somebody comes in with an assault rifle. let's go back to the sportsmen. do you think the sportsmen you know and are organized in illinois, do you think they would support a limit on the number of rounds in a clip? >> i think they would. you look at the polls of sportsmen and hunters, people who own guns for those purposes
and self-defense, overwhelmingly they're for reasonable limitations. you ask them pointblank, should we have a background check to make sure that unstable individuals don't get their hands on a firearm, and they say of course. why would we want that to happen? there is a common ground here. but we need to hear their voices. many are speaking for them in washington who really don't understand their values. >> let me ask you about the comparison you drew because i hope we're in the 11th hour of the fiscal crisis, fiscal cliff debates and negotiations. tell me about that parallel between the unwillingness to deal with -- you very courageously supported simpson/bowles. it seems people on the left and right have a hard time making those kind of compromises. how is that similar to what we're dealing with in the gun issue? >> you worked around here, you know how this works. people go back to their home districts, and people in the gun lobbies will say, listen, we have a scorecard here, and we're going to watch every single vote, and you better be right, buddy. you better score an "a" or we're going to defeat you in the next election. it's the same mentality that
drove the grover norquist pledge. you pledge i'll be there with an "a" no matter what. i can't tell you how many times i have looked at my colleagues in the eye after they cast one of these crazy votes on guns and they shrug their shoulders and say, i live in a pretty conservative area. the honest answer is even in conservative areas people are sensible and rational, and if we come up with something that's reasonable that doesn't inhibit basic sportsmen and hunters and self-defense, we're going to have strong support across party lines. >> governor adlai stevenson of illinois once said it's the duty of leaders to lead. thank you very much, dick durbin. you're a leader. thanks for joining us and merry christmas to you. >> thanks, chris. with me is dana milbank. dana, thank you. you're a sarcastic fellow, and i enjoy that in you, but let's get to the heart of this thing. what's wrong with the congress? why can't it do anything? i want to read from your column. if you believe the current national mood will be the same, you have another thing coming. are we in a mood of change, of demand, that action can be taken? number of bullets of rounds in a clip.
do we really want to have a kid, a crazy person wandering around with a clip of 30 bullets in it, especially bullets that have been worked on to make sure they explode as widely as possible inside the human body? >> chris, i mean, this is one of those issues that defies any sarcasm or irony, and it does sort of just bring out anger, and i was writing today about, you know, the president saying in the coming weeks. now, that's perfectly sensible, on the one hand, to say that he's going to take action in the coming weeks and to ask his cabinet to come up with proposals. we've got christmas coming, we've got the fiscal cliff debate. but we've seen this movie before, and what happens is the nra and its allies are back on their heels. some action could be taken. then they regain their balance, and by the time people get around to doing something like reinstating the assault weapons ban, the support is gone for it. and you see it happening. the nra is saying they're going to have their roll-out of whatever their announcement is going to be on friday.
you can be sure they're not going to say let's reduce the magazine capacity and have an assault weapons ban. >> they're going to do something on mental illness funding. >> of course. >> they're going to hide from the gun issue so far you won't believe it. >> of course. the republicans who have not -- who have been kind of quiet are going to rally around that point of view. some of the program democrats -- we have had about a half dozen in the senate have come out and said, well, maybe we'll be open to something. they're going to be reined back in, too. if you don't seize the initiative, if you don't take advantage of when the nra is back on its heels, this isn't going to happen, and we're going to be dealing with the same thing in a few months. >> here is a smart senator talking, mark warner from virginia, a moderate democrat. he's joined the chorus of pro-gun democrats who is willing to look at changes in gun safety. let's listen to the senator from virginia. >> i believe every american has second amendment rights and that the ability to hunt is part of our culture. i have had an nra rating of an "a," but, you know, enough is
enough. i have got -- i'm a father of three daughters, and this weekend they all said, dad, you know, how can this go on? and i, like i think most of us, realize that there are ways to get to rational gun control. there are ways to grapple with the obvious challenges of mental illness. >> those wonderful words in the bible about you must become like a child. the interesting approach and i was thinking in so many cases in recent history you have seen the young in this country, the people under 30, for example, who have led the way on issues like same-sex marriage, on issues like even obama's election to the presidency and so many cases. do you think this is an area where young kids are going to say to their parents, get over this nra fixation, be loyal to us kids, not to them? >> i think that's exactly what we're hearing now, and that's why you heard joe manchin from west virginia saying the same thing. you had harry reid, who is quite pro-gun, out there making some favorable noise.
a lot of these incoming democratic senators. the question is how long can you sustain that action? we've seen in -- >> i'm with you on that, brother. i know the problem of passion. the people on the far right, on the nra front, never lose their passion. they think about it every day of their lives. they go to bed at night and put their heads on the pillow afraid somebody is going to take that gun away from them. normal people have other interests like their spouses, like their lives, their children, and even their generalized politics isn't all driven by one issue. >> well, what we've seen is this congress operates under crisis. it requires a crisis, a fiscal crisis, an international crisis to create any sort of an action that's going on. the only way you beat back a special interest group -- it's no coincidence that grover norquist of the tax pledge is also on the board of the nra. the only way you beat back this is with focusing public attention like a laser. i just have a feeling if we wait for dianne feinstein to introduce her assault weapons ban in january, we're all going to be talking about something else.
>> i think you're smart. thank you, dana milbank. speed could be important here. coming up, president obama and house speaker john boehner meet again at the white house, and the two sides are inching closer to a deal on the cliff. the hard part of both men will be selling the deal to their own people. plus, the national rifle association has gone silent since the newtown massacre. are they laying low hoping the country's outrage subsides? they're hibernating. they're in their bunker now. we'll see what they're up to. new details from the 2012 election. yes, we now know how the obama campaign responded behind the scenes after the president bombed in that first debate. we've got the authors of politico's new ebook on the campaign's final days. let me finish with why no one on the right ever blames president obama or any president for these shooting sprees, because they don't want them to do anything about them. this is "hardball," the place for politics. progressive insurance. you know, from our 4,000 television commercials. yep, there i am with flo.
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from the middle east. our nbc colleague, the great chief foreign correspondent richard engel, and his crew are free after being held captive in syria for five days. they were abducted by a group of gunmen after they drove through what they thought was rebel-controlled territory. they escaped during a firefight between their captors and the rebels. and they safely reached turkey today. this morning on the "today" show, engel described the kinds of things he and his crew were subjected to by their kidnappers. >> they kept us blindfolded, bound. we weren't physically beaten or tortured. it was a lot of psychological torture, threats of being killed. they made us choose which one of us would be shot first, and when we refused, there were mock shootings. >> mock shootings. richard engel is back with us. he's one of the best reporters around the world regularly risking his life to report from war zones across the middle east. we're very happy he's safe and sound tonight, and we'll be right back.
welcome back to "hardball." by most accounts the two sides in the fiscal cliff talks are moving closer and closer to striking a deal. well, can they do it on time? look, see where the sides stand right now. on the one hand, you have president obama proposing new revenues of $1.2 trillion, that's 1.2, and spending cuts of the same, $1.2 trillion. the offer from speaker boehner is not far off. he's proposing a revenue increase of just $1 trillion and $1 trillion in spending cuts. he's a smaller package than the president. in terms of who would pay their tax rates, see them go up to the clinton level rates, president obama's latest offer talks about people making over $400,000. he's moved up from $250,000 to $400,000. which he's been pushing. speaker boehner wants those tax hikes to affect only people making over $1 million. are the differences bridgeable? kelly o'donnell, it's a great question. is this arithmetic ahead of us or does one side have to do better than the other in terms of closing in on the middle ground? >> reporter: all the dance we're seeing does give us some signs
of optimism. both sides seem to be making some concessions. the loudest voices of complaint tend to be coming from people not directly in the room. we're hearing good things from the white house and the speaker's office about the potential for a deal but still it's tense. what you have with republicans is a change sort of in tone when they are now framing this issue as tax increases will happen january 1st as being baked in, in the words of the speaker, so the strategy for republicans is to try to save as many americans from a tax increase as possible. that's where you get the $1 million threshold. the white house came back, of course, at $400,000, and perhaps you can see they aren't in numbers that far off. the details, of course, are difficult. we expect that there will be a house vote on the ideas put forward by the speaker, the so-called plan "b" on thursday. that's a way to sort of put a marker in the sand of what can be passed through the house. that is both a message idea as well as a tactical move to try to send a signal to the white
house of what might be achievable in dealing with the house of representatives. >> but won't the republicans just all vote for the million dollar cutoff and then say that's the best deal we can get? i hate to be cynical, but they'll obviously choose the softer way out only affecting a few people. there's only, what, 400,000 people in the country that make $1 million a year. so that's a nicer crowd to go after than to go after the far larger crowd. so won't they just try to signal the easy way out and then say that's the only way out? >> reporter: well, by taking the vote in two steps, one on the threshold of $250,000 where the president originally set it and a vote on the $1 million level, they'll try to make the argument that the 250 cannot pass. and by doing that they hope to move a little bit further. it's part of the strategy. we expect that it will be busy the next few days, but there are still signs of optimism. some democrats have said this plan "b" idea is really boehner backing away from the talks. they are sort of saying that it is likely he will step away as he did during the debt ceiling. republicans are saying, no,
they're still working at it, but this is, i think, the time where they're just trying to make the moves to see who is dancing around the ring and can land a better punch. >> merry christmas, kelly. >> merry christmas and happy birthday, chris. >> thanks, dear. i think we're going to make it. i have been saying this for a while. i think the grown-ups will be grown-ups. we have the former chair of the republican national committee and msnbc political analyst michael steele, also democratic strategist chris kofinis. michael, do you think the two parties will agree to release people and their parties, the moderates and the center left and center right, to cut a deal and not require everybody to vote in lockstep in the two parties? >> i do, chris. i think that's part of the strategy that boehner and the president, quite frankly, have been putting in place. from what i understand, the white house and boehner through the speaker's office have already begun to lay down that patchwork for nancy pelosi to bring some people to the center and for boehner to do the same. part of that, as kelly just mentioned, was the plan "b." we set the outliers, $1 million.
the president raised his number from $250,000 to $400,000. they're feeling out where in their caucus, then begin to pull those votes to get this deal done, so, you know, it's really interesting, but it's an opportunistic moment for both of these gentlemen, and i think they're playing their cards pretty well so far. >> what's the deal breaker on the liberal side, chris? what is it that you would find if it breaks, the deal doesn't hold over the weekend or through the weekend, on the liberal side? is it the pressing around with the cpi for social security, carving that down a bit, the payments you get when they adjust it for inflation? is that the hardest thing to sell if you're the president to the left? >> you know, if the art of compromise is about sharing pain, it all depends on how much pain you're willing to accept. i think for those on the left, you know, cpi is going to be a very difficult pill to swallow. if nothing else, i mean, i know from my time on the hill, you know, the aarp responded pretty strongly when that came up in any kind of discussions. and so you're going to have
people i think mobilize. i think it depends how the numbers are structured and where, you know, where is this revenue coming from and how the cpi itself is structured. so the devil is in the details here -- >> but aarp is going to oppose anything that cuts anything at any time. that's what they get paid for. let's be honest. they're not there for fairness. they're there as lobbyists for people over 50 years of age. >> there's no question about that. i think the problem is they also have, as we know, enormous political sway, and so i think the question is for those members of congress who are going to vote on this, they have to decide how they're going to balance it, especially on the left, because at the end of the day, i don't think anybody wants us to go over the cliff, but they also want a deal -- >> i know people on the left that would like to dance on that cliff for years. they just love that cliff. let me ask you, mike, some people just like trouble. let me go to this, michael. you're laughing. what is the hardest thing for your side, the center right and right, to buy? is it to cut that threshold down
to say $450,000 or somewhere around in there where the president can say, okay, it doesn't raise as much revenue, but it's more fair than what we got? >> i think that's part of it, chris, and i really think, and you and i have talked about this before, that for a lot of my conservative friends and myself included is, you know, what does the other side give? what are the spending cuts, real spending cuts, substantive spending cuts that are going to make a difference. you didn't lose sight of this as part of this deal. it goes to what you were talking about with cpi and other aspects of the deal that are pieces that can be put in play like a puzzle -- >> you're opening the door to a little game on their side. if they yell, oh, you're killing me, mr. bill, you're killing me, you're killing me, and if it really seems to hurt, then you will say that's what we wanted. we want nancy pelosi writhing on the house floor, and then we feel that we've got somewhere. i get your point. i agree with you. i think the democrats, not speaking for you completely, chris, but my theory is they want to see teeth marks in the necks of, what's his name, the
grover norquist crowd. they want him to hurt this week. thank you, michael steele. thank you, chris kofinis. up next, return of the birthers. what is in the water in arizona that would once again cause the state's officials to question president obama's being born in the united states? they're at it again. this is "hardball," the place for politics. [ woman ] ring. ring. progresso.
began questioning about whether the president's birth certificate is legitimate or not. tom morrissey said, i'm not satisfied with what i've seen. i think for somebody in the president's position to not have produced a document that looks more legitimate, i have a problem with that. according to a local news report, college member dan askoli said he didn't think obama was properly vetted as a legitimate candidate. jan brewer refused to challenge those romney electors saying, the bottom line is everyone is entitled to their own opinion. i happen to disagree. next, south carolina state representative bill chumley filed a bill last week that called for the arrest of any public official, get this, found enforcing obama care. according to the proposal, any state official caught enforcing obama care, quote, must be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than two years or both. federal officials caught in the act of enforcing the health care law would receive still stiffer punishments. state representative chumley does not think this will be a hard sell. his words. finally, secretary of state hillary clinton is recovering this week after a bit of a
health scare. she suffered a concussion while fainting due to dehydration. clinton had been scheduled to testify about benghazi this week, but deputies will testify in her place. enter john bolten, former u.n. ambassador under george w. bush. he's not convinced of clinton's illness. >> you know, every foreign service officer in every foreign ministry in the world knows the phrase i'm about to use. when you don't want to go to a meeting or a conference or an event, you have a diplomatic illness. and this is a diplomatic illness to beat the band. >> victoria nuland responded saying bolton doesn't know what he's talking about. in bolton's case that's all a reasonable, safe assumption. up next, is the horror of newtown marking the beginning of the end of the nra's dominance over the issue of gun control in this country? you're watching "hardball," the place for politics.
newtown shootings or are they just laying low waiting for the storm to pass. since friday they've been absent from the discussion on guns. today they released a statement saying they've been quiet, quote, as a matter of common decency, but they are planning -- in fact, they have a press conference set for friday. according to "the new york times," it has an established precedent for responding, quote, over the years the nra has perfected its strategy for responding to mass shootings. lie low at first, then slow roll any legislative push for a response. has something fundamental shifted in the guns debate however since friday or will it be business as usual with the nra calling the shots? in a moment mayor michael nutter of philadelphia will be with us. he's the head of the united states conference of mayors, and mark glaze is executive director of mayors against illegal guns. you work strongly with the effort to try to reduce the number of guns. let's talk about the nra, the nemesis out there. >> right. >> they have been playing possum. they very nicely put out a press release saying they're very concerned and they've been
trying to be sensitive, but they're up to something. i have a sense they're going to do nothing about gun control. they will probably talk about mental illness, a legitimate concern, but nothing to do with guns. >> this is the way they always do it. what are they going to say? we have systematically whittled away even gun restrictions that nra members want to the point where there are more guns on the street than people. it's not a nice thing to say after a tragedy. the other thing to be aware of is it's not just the nra out there saying we have to make this about better mental health care. as you say, that's absolutely true, but when you hear democrats on the hill immediately turning to we have to care for the sick, they're right, but they're also avoiding the topic. the topic is congress has been absent from duty and -- >> let me shake you with this. here is a guy we had on last night, larry pratt. i read his op-ed in "usa today" yesterday. he's the executive director of a group called the gun owners of america, which sounds like just gun owners, but listen to his explanation of why he supports
gun rights. it's rooted in his belief that it's a way to fight the government. let's watch. would this be a less free country if you couldn't have an assault rifle? >> yeah, because we have guns fundamentally protected by the second amendment. >> wait a minute -- >> to control the government. we have guns in order to control the government. >> not just the right to use guns to protect your home, it's the right to use guns to take on your government. >> the government has been overboard. >> these are people who think of themselves in the lager as the whites used to say in south africa. some day the government is coming. a poplar government. they're not worrying about a coup d'etat. a popular government. i must be heavily armed and ready to fight the government with semiautomatic weapons which maybe i can convert to automatic when i have to. >> right. >> this isn't about hunting. this isn't about having personal protection. it's not about having a shotgun in case somebody tries to break in. this is about making war.
isn't this called sedition? how's that far -- for a word? >> the nra, this isn't new stuff. the nra, a high ranking official, said as much in 1990, that this is not about defense or this is not about hunting. this is not just about defense of the home, and we should be honest about that. this is about protecting ourselves from the government if we ever need to. >> you know, mayor nutter, michael nutter, i'm very proud to have him on, mayor nutter. the idea of the constitution which we can read, it's right in there, you have a right to have a musket because you have to be of a militia. militias are the people who are supposed to be carrying out the public order, protecting domestic tranquility, not creating trouble. they're supposed to be helping to protect against. these guys, these nuts come on and say i need my gun to fight my government. >> yeah. no, that's the police department, your state police, the national guard, and under -- i can't even imagine the circumstance. that's why we have the army. this is -- it's an absurdity,
quite frankly, and the wonderful thing about america is people can believe whatever they want to believe, and i do respect that. what we're talking about is human life. what we're talking about is protecting children and adults, and whether it's on the streets of philadelphia or new york or chicago or atlanta or in a classroom in newtown, connecticut, people want to be safe. you know, it's interesting, chris, that in the aftermath of 9/11, americans were willing to take on any number of what some might consider inconveniences or even, you know, some restriction on our freedoms because if you want to fly on an airplane, you have to take off almost all of your clothes, including your shoes. a guy had a bomb in his shoe, and now we're all taking our shoes off. so people want to be safe. this is not, as you said earlier, this is not about
grandpop's shotgun. this is not about the tradition. and you're from philly, and we know that the traditions there are in pennsylvania. fathers and mothers take sons and daughters shooting deer or bear or birds or something like that. these are people who kill people. it's the only purpose of these high capacity weapons. >> mayor -- >> weapons of mass destruction that are shooting down innocent children and other adults in cities all across the united states of america, and some reasonable regulations and some reasonable gun safety training and trigger locks and lockers and providing programs for those who may have some mental health challenges, but there is no reason for a civilian to have an automatic weapon. >> here is another point of view. you talked about people having a right to their own opinions. take a look at what u.s. congressman louie gohmert said about what would have prevented those deaths in newtown, connecticut.
let's watch louie gohmert in action here. >> i wish to god she had had an m-4 in her office locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn't have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids. >> mark, and then mayor nutter, the argument from the nra side, not yet official but from that point of view on the gun owner's side is if we only had more people with guns, including teachers and school officials packing heat during school hours, that we wouldn't have people coming in with impunity and kill them. >> we work with survivors all the time, including people who were in the theater in aurora. they will tell you exactly what police will tell you, which is that putting more guns in a dark theater, a street corner, most often in hands that have not been trained like police officers have, are not going to make a situation more safe. most of the public doesn't believe that. >> mayor, do you think it's right for teachers in philly or anywhere else to have guns?
>> no one is suggesting that anywhere, and it's unfortunate that the gentleman thinks that. that comes from watching too much television. he probably also thinks that many people can shoot the gun out of someone's hand or, you know, shoot it across the floor and all this other kind of stuff like butch cassidy and the sundance kid or something. that would have only led to more death and destruction, more bullets flying around, and whether it's in the classroom, whether it was in a theater, in tucson out in a parking lot. can you imagine if everybody literally as we call it at least here, if everybody is strapped and everybody is pulling out, you know, their weapon of choice, you're just going to have more bullets flying all around. it's about safety. no one has yet to be able to explain why someone needs the kind of high-powered weapons that that individual in connecticut had. now we're seeing more and more people with body armor. so he was prepared not only to do what he did apparently, which was to kill his own mother and
then shoot down 20 kids and 6 adults, but then possibly take on the police, law enforcement who showed up with body armor before he killed himself. >> let's listen -- we have to hear from the other side. let's hear the irrational side. here is wayne lapierre, who i used to think was okay. here is what he says about the president's conspiracy to take away our guns. here he was, this is wayne lapierre talking at the cpac convention last year. i think it was last year. let's listen to him. >> the president will offer the second amendment lip service and hit the campaign trail saying he's actually been good for the second amendment. but it's a big, fat, stinking lie, just like all the other lies that have come out of this corrupt administration.
it's all part -- it's all part of a massive obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions, to destroy the second amendment in our country. >> mark, he hadn't done a thing at this point. the terrible language. he's gotten worse over the years. this is the kind of language we were getting from newt gingrich and sununu, this personal attack on obama for things he didn't even do. >> i have three thoughts about that. the first is that any democrat in congress or around this country that accepts money from the nra ought to be ashamed of themselves after they say things like that about a democratic president. the second thing is that, you know, they said all of that after barack obama did nothing during his administration other than expand the gun rights. >> being barack obama was enough for them. we've got to go. this isn't even a debate anymore. mr. mayor -- >> chris, the one thing -- >> quickly. >> the one thing i would say quickly about him, i would dare him to say that to the parents of those children in connecticut
or any other mother or father that's lost someone because of these weapons on the street. he should be ashamed of himself. >> thank you, mayor michael nutter of philadelphia, head of the u.s. conference of mayors and mark glazer. thank you. we all remember how president obama bombed in that first debate with mitt romney. now we know just what the obama campaign did to try to control the damage after the first one. that's one of the new details out of the campaign in the new politico ebook, "the end of the line." it's authors join us next. this is "hardball," the place for politics.
the justice department will not charge paula broadwell with cyber stalking. justice officials formally notified her attorneys today. broadwell is the woman at the center of the scandal that forced general david petraeus out at the cia. she wrote a biography on petraeus, but last month he stepped down after revealing he had an extramarital affair with her. we'll be right back.
this week new details are emerging about the strategy and the decision making that led up to it and followed his poor performance in denver. that and other behind-the-scenes details are revealed in politico's new ebook called "the end of the line." the co-authors are here with the inside scoop on the final weeks of the 2012 campaign. we, gentlemen. first of all, all i care about learning tonight, and i'm fascinated with it, is how could the president be so darn good in the second and third debates, and even biden was very good, very good, and the president was so terrible -- he even accused me of having a stroke i was so excited about how bad it was. as ax said, he didn't have to watch television to hear what i was saying on ms. glenn, i understand from an inside source what happened was they prepared him to go in tough, he had the attack lines and zingers, and a small circle got around him and said cool it. that was henry cabot lodge getting to nixon at the end and ruining his strategy at the last minute.
so your thoughts, knowledge in reporting this, was there a strong, aggressive strategy in place that the president was then told not to use? >> it was actually henry cabot lodge again who did this one, too. no -- >> he's back. >> they went into this in august. they had sort of the bible of the debates are these memos that they build and then they alter, and in august they came up with a memo that was all about holding romney accountable for trying to move to the center. axelrod says we're not going to let him do this centrist riff, and then the 47% thing happened, and that small group around obama, axelrod particularly, anita dunn also, david plouffe less so a little bit ron klain a little less so said hold it. we've got to make this guy look presidential. romney is killing himself. we don't need to be -- the word they kept using was caustic. so they gave him a lot of contradictory advice. he himself was conflicted.
and my sources say right before he left for that disastrous prep debate in nevada, look, i don't know what to do here. you're giving me contradictory advice. >> here is a tough question. maybe you don't know the answer to. this tell me. john kerry was the head of the debate team. he was the guy playing him. was he part of the team that said get tough and the other guys overruled him later? what happened? what was his role in this? >> i would defer to glenn. but generally john kerry was not blamed by the president or the president's high command for his poor denver debate performance. they said kerry did his job effectively. and the proof of that, chris, the fact that john kerry is about to become secretary kerry instead of senator john kerry. but glenn can speak more to the kerry role. >> they had the early practices. were they tough? were they encouraging the president to go after the guy? was kerry a guy who said go after him or what?
>> kerry was a fairly passive participant. he was more of an active than a screenwriter in this. >> i see. >> the thing they were really worry about. this is what i found fascinating. they thought kerry was going to play pattycake with obama in order to curry favor to become secretary of state. at the first couple of prep sessions at the dnc in washington, he was really soft on obama. but it turned out obama is just not the kind of guy you can walk up to and call a failure to his face. i think that holds true with every president in these practice session. obama particularly. >> guess who did? romney did. tell me, check me on this. i had a sense he had never been talked to with such lack of deference for four years, and all of the sudden romney with all this cordiality and phony civility went in there and talked to him like a lesser being. and that drove the president crazy. your thoughts, then, the way he disdained him in that debate. >> will klain and axlerod and plouffe came up to kerry during some of the sessions and said look, you got to start hitting this guy.
that's exactly what happened. in nevada, when they got to that disastrous debate prep in nevada, we report this 1:30-minute session was just a shellacking in which kerry got right into obama's face and called him a failure repeatedly. they had expected it would arouse obama, wake him up, but it didn't. >> forever trying to figure out why obama was looking down at his table for taking notes. for what? future debates? let me go to john on this one. i'm being sarcastic because it drove me crazy. because he is so smart, the president. why are the romney people, who had all these incredibly paid staffers, the highest paid in the history of national campaigning, fehrnstrom seemed smart, neil newhouse, and they got the whole thing wrong. they told the guy he was going win. what happened at the end? you first, john. that. >> emphatically thought they were going to win. if anybody tells you that we didn't think we were going to win, they're lying to you. the candidate thought they were going to win.
mrs. romney thought they were going to win. and the top staffers as well. they were convinced the polling they had internally was correct, and the public polling was overstating the nature of the democratic turnout. and they were wedded to that until the very end. romney thought on election day that he was going to win. he travelled to ohio and pennsylvania. you saw these huge crowds waiting for him at final stops in those two states. and the sources i talked to said that he was definitely convinced that victory was at hand. let me just say real fast, chris, on the debate stuff, from my source on the romney side, i can answer the question to you about the preparation that romney had. one source said to me that rob portman, who is the prep guy for romney was throwing fastballs high and tight at romney. so you talk about someone who would act in a certain fashion to get the candidate prepared for the debate. i'm told that portman was really, really tough on romney, and offered no quarter at all. >> and actually, that wasn't a very good prep because the
president wasn't that tough. >> not in that first debate. your thoughts. what was the biggest gem? >> the biggest glenn? no. well, i was fascinated by the debate stuff. but one thing that john and i did in this piece was to sort of do this pretty minute-by-minute tick-tock of election night. because it was just weird the way that went down with the long delay. and one of the things that i found out is the obama team, probably with the exception of obama himself were really ticked off at team romney for taking 70, 80 minutes to wait. valerie jarrett was angry. axlerod was angry. and jim messina had to call matt rhodes, mitt romney's campaign messenger and had to send a text before romney called. >> i think he conceded in fine time. there awake. john, quickly. >> two fast things. that is on election night, the romney campaign drafted remarks and considered having paul ryan go down to the podium to send everybody home until the next
morning. that was a possibility considered until it became obvious that romney was going to lose. the second thing. in '08, there was a mormon documentarian. he cut a documentary made in 2010. the romney advisers spiked it. it's never seen the light of day because the romney high command thought it showed romney talking about his faith in a way that may be politically damaging for them. >> "called the end of the line" written by two great writers, jonathan martin and glenn thrush. we'll be right back. ring. rin. progresso. i just finished a bowl of your new light chicken pot pie soup and it's so rich and creamy... is it really 100 calories? let me put you on webcan... ...lean roasted chicken... and a creamy broth mmm i can still see you. [ male announcer ] progresso. you gotta taste this soup.